The Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) expresses its deepest anguish at the China’s recent outrageous interference in the religious affairs of Tibetan people in Tibet. According to the latest information emanating from Tibet, another statue of Guru Padmasambhava or popularly known as Guru Rinpoche was demolished and construction of another Guru statue was reportedly suspended by the local Chinese authorities in two different regions of Tibet.
According to confirmed information, about two meter high statue of Guru Rinpoche built with financial contribution by the faithful local Tibetans was demolished in the first week of October by the local Chinese authorities from Ngari Darchen, Burang County, Ngari Prefecture, “Tibet Autonomous Region” (‘TAR’). The statue built with clay was completed a month ago with religious consecration done by the local religious heads upon its completion.
In a similar incident, on 14 August 2007, a statue of Guru Rinpoche, which was under construction at Rongpatsa Village, Kardze County, Kardze “Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture” (‘TAP’) was suspended following the local authorities’ issuance of order prohibiting construction of the statue.
These are not the isolated cases surfacing from Tibet, in mid-May this year, the Chinese People’s Armed Police (PAP) forcibly demolished a nearly completed gold and copper plated colossal statue of Guru Rinpoche of the Samye Monastery in Dragnag County, Lhoka Prefecture, ‘TAR’. TCHRD highlighted the demolition of the statue on 4 June 2007 after which the official Chinese statement issued by the Democratic Management Committee of Samye Monastery on 8 June said that the construction of the statue “disobeyed the Law of the People’s Republic of China on Protection of Cultural Relics and the Notice of Illegally Building Open Statue of Buddha….Samye Monastery then self-moved the open-air statue forwardly [sic].”
Earlier, in the beginning of this year, the Chinese authorities issued 56 articled new measures for the “Regulation on Religious Affairs” entered into force. The new regulation, instead of providing the protection of religious affairs, was deliberately aimed at enforcing compliance with government regulations and policies on religious organizations, religious personnel, and religious citizens. In particular, this new regulation empowers the officials with legal backing to intensify restrictions thus subjecting Tibetans to state control and repression.
The Centre also recorded that a new restrictive measures on religious practices were being enforced on general public. Prohibitions continue to be in place for important religious days like Saka Dawa and Gaden Ngyamchoe, birthday of the Dalai Lama and the 11th Panchen Lama Gedhun Choekyi Nyima in Tibet.
Since the beginning of September this year, China’s State Administration of Religious Affairs (SARA) issued 14-article with measures on reincarnation which clearly demonstrates the Chinese Communist Party’s (CPC) adamant attempt to undermine and tarnish the centuries-old Tibetan tradition of religious practice. It also attempts to weaken the authority of the legitimate Tibetan religious leaders most prominently that of the Dalai Lama. The new measure bars any Buddhist monk living outside China from seeking reincarnation for himself or recognizing a “living Buddha” thus effectively ending the centuries-old Tibetan Buddhist practice. It further adds that, ” All the reincarnations of living Buddha of Tibetan Buddhism must get government approval, otherwise they are ‘illegal or invalid'”. It is understandable from this new measure that the centuries-old traditional Tibetan system of recognizing reincarnate lamas is irrelevant from now on and the Chinese CPC decides the legitimacy of the reincarnate lamas.
In addition, the Chinese authorities have reinvigorated the “Patriotic education” campaign across religious institutions and general masses since the beginning of September this year and which will go on for three months in Lithang and Kardze region. Under this campaign, many Tibetans were arrested and detained for their open defiance and confrontation with the authorities.
TCHRD believes that this latest incident of demolishing Guru Padmasambhava’s statue in Ngari Darchen and the forced suspension of construction work of Guru’s statue in Rongpatsa not only highlights the new measures being forcibly implemented and carried out in Tibet but also show authorities adamant attempt to undermine the religious sentiments of Tibetan people.
The latest measures and restrictions imposed on religious activities signal that a prospect for more religious freedom as gallantly pronounced in the Chinese constitution is bleak, considering China’s record with respect to the religious freedom. While China’s constitution provides its citizens with the “freedom of religious belief,” it does not protect the right to manifest religious beliefs, highlighting the importance for China to ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which contains explicit provisions on the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religions and which she signed on 5 October 1998.
The PRC should abide by the rights guaranteed in constitution and other major international covenants and treaties which she is party to.